Vibrant, modern and reinvented, Vienna has something for every visitor
Austria’s capital has long been renowned for its historic architecture, classical music and dancing horses, but in recent years it has reinvented itself as a vibrant, modern city. Older buildings, such as the former Gasometer, have been turned into apartments and joined by daringly innovative new architecture, while young designers have taken over hidden corners of the city to display their creative flair. All this creates a vibrant backdrop, particularly with landmark attractions such as Prater amusement park’s 200ft Ferris wheel. Nightly concerts of Viennese waltzes can be found throughout the city. And when it’s time to relax, no visit would be complete without a visit to a traditional coffee house.
SPANISH RIDING SCHOOL: If your visit doesn’t coincide with a monthly gala dressage performance you can still watch the Lipizzaner horses being put through their paces. Combined tickets are available for morning exercise sessions and an afternoon stable tour. srs.at
MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY: See Vienna from a completely different perspective with a rooftop tour at the Museum of Natural History, available in English every Sunday, with fantastic views over the Ringstrasse. nhm-wien.ac.at
DANUBE ISLAND: The Viennese relax in the cafes, beaches and walkways of the 13-mile Donauinsel (Danube Island), a short subway trip and bridge/ferry hop from the city center.
RINGSTRASSE: This year, Vienna’s showpiece boulevard celebrates its 150th anniversary of being unveiled by Emperor Franz Joseph. Built in several architectural styles, the mansions and public buildings form an impressive procession of the city’s most important buildings, including the Imperial Palace, City Hall and Parliament. Commemorative events will be held throughout 2015.
SCHONBRUNN PALACE: Austria’s largest palace and Vienna’s most visited tourism attraction, it’s easy to spend an entire day at this stunning Baroque site of the Schonbrunn Palace, built at the end of the 17th century as a lavish hunting lodge. Tours take in ornate rooms decorated in gold leaf and visitors can stroll around the surrounding parkland. schoenbrunn.at
ST STEPHEN’S CATHEDRAL: The symbol of the city for eight centuries is one of Austria’s finest Gothic buildings. Severely damaged by fire in WWII, it was rebuilt in just seven years and is filled with art treasures. It’s worth climbing the south tower’s 343 steps for the panoramic views.
Where to eat
FIGLMULLER: The ‘home of wiener schnitzel’ has served Vienna’s signature dish of thin, breaded veal since 1905. figlmueller.at
HOTEL SACHER: Savor a slice of rich and decadent chocolate Sacher-Torte that’s made to a closely guarded secret recipe. sacher.com
KUSSMAUL: Celebrated Viennese chef Mario Bernatovic has opened his own acclaimed restaurant, featuring innovative, modern cuisine. kussmaul.at
Where to sleep
HOTEL IMPERIAL: This sumptuous Ringstrasse hotel was built as a royal residence in 1863 and prides itself on its impeccable service. imperialvienna.com
MELIA VIENNA: Opened last year, this spectacular property by the Danube occupies 12 floors of Austria’s tallest skyscraper. melia.com
PARK HYATT VIENNA: This new hotel is situated in an imposing former bank in the Golden Quarter shopping zone. vienna.park.hyatt.com
MUSEUMSQUARTIER: Known as MQ, it’s among the world’s 10 largest cultural complexes. A fascinating contrast of historic and modern architecture, including old imperial stables, the galleries, museums and theaters provide an exciting and changing program of arts and entertainment. mqw.at
ART HISTORY MUSEUM: Built in 1891 near the Imperial Palace to house the extensive artwork owned by Vienna’s ruling family, the grand galleries include the largest collection of works by Flemish Renaissance painter Bruegel and masterpieces by Rubens and Rembrandt. khm.at
VIKTOR-FRANKL MUSEUM: The world’s first museum dedicated to the renowned Viennese psychiatrist and holocaust survivor opened this March on the 110th anniversary of Viktor Frankl’s birth. Based in his former apartment, it presents Frankl’s intellectual legacy through pictures, books, films and documents. franklzentrum.org
EASTER MARKETS: Artistically decorated eggs, handicrafts and traditional Easter foods form the centerpiece of the Viennese Easter markets held in front of the Schonbrunn Palace and in the Freyung district (March 20-April 6).
VIENNA BLUES SPRING: Each year hundreds of musicians congregate for the world’s longest-running blues festival hosted at various venues. This year’s line-up includes Philadelphia’s Steve Guyger (March 20-April 30). viennabluesspring.org
EUROVISION SONG CONTEST: Vienna is hosting the 60th Eurovision Song Contest this year after Austria’s ‘bearded lady’ Conchita Wurst won the kitsch event in 2014. The final takes place on May 23. eurovision.tv
Where to shop
GOLDEN QUARTER: This prestigious retail area in the heart of the 1st district boasts high-end designer stores including Louis Vuitton, Prada and Emporio Armani. A Vivienne Westwood outlet sells the eccentric British designer’s fashion lines and custom-tailored couture normally only seen at the main London shop.
NASCHMARKT: Open from dawn to dusk, Vienna’s colorful main market has more than 120 stalls selling fruit, vegetables and delicacies from around the world, plus several restaurants and cafes. Even if you don’t want to buy anything, it’s particularly fun to visit on a Saturday when there’s a weekly flea market.
NEUBAUGASSE: Just off Mariahilfer Strasse, the city’s longest shopping street with its familiar and global household names, you’ll find Neubaugasse. Filled with eclectic individual shops, it’s the place to seek out Freitag bags made from old truck tarpaulins and the ebenBERG boutique selling chic fashion created from organic and fair-trade fabrics.
WHEN TO GO: The best times to visit Vienna are during the spring and the fall, when temperatures are mild and comfortable (the summer heat can hit highs of 95F) and there are fewer crowds. It’s chilly in winter, plummeting to -4F with often heavy snowfall, but the Christmas markets are very atmospheric.
TIME: GMT +1.
DIAL CODE: +43.
CONTACT: Vienna Tourist Board. vienna.info